Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmases (plural!)

I saw this on Facebook, and it made me laugh. We're hobbits!

Over the years I have written at least a few times about two Christmases a year. Anyone reading here probably already knows that Russia and most of Ukraine--70%, they say--celebrate Christmas January 7. We do, too. And we also celebrate on December 25. In our family we tend to call the days "First Christmas" and "Second Christmas," so, yes, we really must be hobbits.

Back when we lived in Russia, we made December 25 a special family day to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Then we celebrated more with our church and friends on January 7. As times and locations have changed, that clear line has blurred. Now we still celebrate both days, of course, but often First Christmas includes friends and church, and so does Second Christmas. Second Christmas pretty much has to involve kolyadki (Ukrainian Christmas carols), though.

Ukraine might start officially recognizing December 25 as a Christmas, too. There's a law about that under consideration. Although, I seem to remember that they talked about it last year, and nothing happened. I like this bit from an article I read: "President Peter Poroshenko said that it's not his right to decide when Ukraine should celebrate Christmas, but he called it wise to celebrate twice." Officially or not, people are more aware of First Christmas in Ukraine than I remember them being in Russia.

There's another aspect of this that I love: having a season of Christmas, "a long, slow Christmas," as one book that I'm reading says. If your culture has been Christmas-ing since the day after Thanksgiving, I can see how you would be tired of Christmas by December 26. Here we get to have a lovely quiet Advent time of preparation. (Advent is NOT Christmas.) Then Christmas starts, and we have a whole two weeks to enjoy it fully. I love it.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Merry Christmas again!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunday School and Christmas Camp

Anya, Bogdan's beloved Sunday school teacher, posted these two darling photos with him in them:

Take note of the paper he's clutching in the second picture. That's an invitation to Christmas day camp. I had several of those papers lying around, and I had registered the girls a while ago. The camp is for school-aged kids, though, so of course I didn't register Bogdan. After Sunday school he told me about some place that he was going. He was very excited about it, but he couldn't remember what it was called. When I tried to question him, he just insisted that Anya had said he was going, and that's that!

Then, Monday evening when I was talking to our girls about getting ready for camp the next day, he remembered. Camp! That's where he was going! So, I quickly called Anya, and she said that, yes, he's too young, but he can come anyway. Anya hadn't specifically said that he was going, but she did make an announcement about it, and all the kids got invitations, no matter what age. Bogdan took that to mean that she was personally inviting him. He's a very happy little camper now that we have that all straightened out, and he's included.

(Yesterday I took the kids to church, came back, poured myself a cup of coffee and started to write this... and got a call saying that Raia was sick. I went back for her--it took forever to get a taxi to bring her home--and got her settled in bed here, then went out with Jaan in the pouring rain-snow-slush to buy presents for his sisters. I picked Asya and Bogdan up on the way home from shopping. So, the first day flew by. I was looking forward to three quiet days, so hopefully at least today and tomorrow will go a bit more smoothly. Raia seems to be fine already now; they think it was mild food poisoning.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Christmas play

Jaan loves the theater group that he is in at church. They performed their Christmas play a few times over the past week, and they did a wonderful job! The first performance was supposed to be for schools, but they couldn't do that because of the flu quarantine that is going on. So, instead the local Christian institute invited children and families from the war zone (more photos). The kids from the church preschool came, too. I also sat in the back and watched. Then the second performance was for the general public. That's what my photos below are from. There are more and better photos here.

The play is based on the movie Hugo. Taras, the youth leader, likes to take stories or characters and write plays about them with a gospel message included. So, Hugo lives in the Paris train station and has a secret automaton left to him by his father. In this version, the automaton's purpose is to tell the story of Christ's birth. The Christmas story was clearly presented in a very entertaining format. Jaan has been very actively involved in all the practices and building the stage sets and more. His part in the play was a porter at the station and being in the crowd constantly hurrying back and forth; he catches Hugo for the inspector at one point.

Jaan and Taras
(I did take this one from "Uncle Kolya.")

The tackle:
Grand finale:

Afterwards we went to a restaurant for pizza and borsch. Before the play we had been at the Agape Christmas party. We had thought we'd have time to eat there, but they didn't start with food, and we had to leave before it was time for that. For the last half hour that we were there poor Asya stood with her hands behind her back and stared at the full tables. Then she had to go across town and sit through the whole play. Of course we had to reward all that patience with her favourite food! And the actor in our family ate a whole pizza by himself.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family! We wish you a wonderful holiday season. Thank you to all of you who love and support us so well.

"My eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples."
Luke 2:30-31

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Two more concerts

Yesterday was Asya's first-ever concert! The music school used the church auditorium in order to have room for everyone. (The church really wants to help the community, so all the schools around use it.) I was there for the whole concert, of course, Jaan ran in from theater practice to join me, and we got Bogdan out of art class for Asya's song, so in the end her whole family heard her.

Lined up to go on stage

Group photo afterwards

Talking to her teacher
Asya with her special guest

At the same time as Asya's concert, Raia had one at the music school. Will made videos of Raia's concert from the back of the room, holding the camera above his head, so they're very shaky. But, if you want, you can listen, and just look at these stills that I pulled out of them (video links under photos). Afterwards she and Will hurried over to the church and made it in time to hear Asya.

Three piglets
Playing with her teacher
Ded Moroz
Had I mentioned that Raia helped decorate the church? Here are a few photos of how that turned out:

Monday, December 19, 2016

One down. How many to go?

The first concert of the season--by students of Jaan's piano teacher and one other teacher--went off without a hitch, except that the electricity was off. That made a very romantic atmosphere.

This first photo isn't of our children, but it shows the feel of the concert, with the teacher in the background reading music with a flashlight. (Our camera did well with gathering more light than was actually there.)

Raia took part, too, because so many of Jaan's fellow students are sick. She was playing a duet with Jaan anyway.

Jaan played two pieces by himself. This is my favourite of the two:
Bending way over to see the keys in the dark, poor kid!

He also played a duet with Raia, as I already said, and another with his teacher. This is just a short part of the one with his teacher:
Then, as is their tradition, Ded Moroz/St. Nikolai made an appearance. (Today is St. Nikolai's day.) The kids especially loved it, because it was the other piano teacher inside the costume, and she did a great job playing it all up, instead of simply giving out the presents like sometimes in the past. And like Raia said, we had never seen Ded Moroz in high heels before!

The power came on very soon after the concert ended, when we were still standing around talking and snacking.

Photos with Jaan's teacher:
The students
Plus siblings
Two concerts tomorrow...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Required reading

I'm sorry to be so demanding, but please do read this. Thank you.

I have actually even heard almost these very same words:
One patient who had been in this prison compound for three years complained: “I am a free person, not a prisoner, why should I be locked up here?!”
 It kind of made me wonder if the author came down this way and visited where some of "our" boys are, but I doubt that he needed to travel so far.

Selfies from inside this "Gulag"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Change One Life

Sometime in the fall I noticed billboards around town for "Change One Life." I looked at some of their videos, and was impressed by the quality. They make short clips showing kids who need to be adopted. It was fun to see some of the kids we know from the main city orphanage.

Then a few days ago I saw that they've been to Tsyurupinsk and put up new videos! They filmed quite a few of the kids I know and love, and many of them are the ones who are considered most "hopeless," the ones that "no one would want." It's so exciting to see them featured. I'm not going to link directly, so as not to give away more specific information than is already available, but if you look at the Kherson region kids, more than 20 of them are from Tsyurupinsk. 

Will has already shared a few of the video clips to the Russian Agape Facebook page, too.

Please pray that these videos really would help children find the families that they so desperately need!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Busy days

Preparations for the Christmas season are in full swing here, and our kids seem to be constantly at practices. I thought I'd list here some of what they have coming up, so that you can know and pray for them. I'll update this as time goes on:
  • December 19--Jaan music school concert (+Raia for one duet)
  • December 19--Jaan: Christmas play in Zelenovka?
  • December 20--Raia music school concert 
  • December 20--Asya: music school New Year concert (flute)
  • December 22--Jaan: Christmas play for a local school
  • December 23--Jaan: Christmas plays for church and general public
  • December 24--art school Christmas (Raia singing)
  • December 25, January 7, 8--church Christmas services; our girls will be singing with the children's choir and playing instrumental pieces, too.
  • Date ?--Jaan and Raia: music school New Year concert for ensemble
  • January 13 and 14--Phyllis: banquets for Tsyurupinsk nannies
Yesterday Asya left home at 10:00 for classes followed by practices and didn't get home until after 5:00!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Clearing out the camera

I haven't taken photos off of our camera for a while. Let's see what it's holding....
It looks like mostly Advent.

I see that I've gotten a good photo of each child lighting the candles, except for Asya. It's her turn to light them tonight, so--note to self!--I need to get a photo of her.

Asya starting her Advent painting
Singing with friends (English fellowship at our house!)

Raia's rat, Martin, had his birthday. You might remember that he and his siblings were born two years ago on December 1.* Raia really wanted to make a cheesecake and celebrate. So, we did.

He liked the cheesecake!

Raia working on Advent art
Advent songs

We saw this shirt in the window of the nearest second hand store and bought it, since it was Asya's size: "I  My Hamster."

Bogdan working on Advent art

On Thursday Jaan and I were the only ones home for most of the evening, so he painted with me. This is a very rare treat. His "Refiner's Fire" turned out incredibly! I need to get a photo of the final result.

Jaan's Advent art in progress
Papa and his baby girl
She was complaining that he's too small.

*Can it be that I didn't blog about that?! I only find one photo, and it's not even of the real Martin. Not long after Raia bought "Martin," she woke us up one night to tell us that "he" had babies! The five little rats spent most of that month with us, then we returned them and their mother to the store. All except Martin. Martin has lived and thrived with us since then. He's two years old now.  This was back when he was a tiny baby. (Jaan looks like a baby there, too.)